What Kind of Leader are You?

Lead By Example and Employees Will Follow You Anywhere

“Do as I say, not as I do.” This is a motto some bosses lead by. However, the Autocratic Leadership model is becoming a thing of the past. As we move further away from the time of feudal lords circa Medieval Europe, this leadership style has also become outdated and is being replaced by various other leadership
styles—some more effective than others.

But what exactly does a compelling business leader look like? Bureaucratic Leaders tend to do everything by the book, insuring that their staff follows all procedures exactly. The Laissez-faire approach to leadership works well with highly trained employees. They are left to their own devices and to make key decisions on their own. When a Democratic Leader is present, employees are invited and relied upon to give input and make decisions. As with any democracy, this leadership style relies on the reaching of an agreement between everybody on the team as to what is best for the group as a whole.

There is another style, however, that is gaining in popularity. Oftentimes seen in companies who rely on innovation in order to succeed, such as the liquid waste industry, the Participative leadership style presents a happy medium between micromanaging and not being engaged. It’s hard to order and demand someone to be creative, perform as a team, solve complex problems, improve quality, and provide outstanding customer service. A Participative Leader seeks to involve others in the process.

But is one leadership style really better than any other? That depends on those doing the following and the employees’ ability to adapt to a particular leadership style. More and more, employees are looking to feel inspired and to trust that their boss has their back, which in turn, can give employees the confidence to make key decisions and do great things within the company.

Inspiring trust is critical, and seeking to inspire is the definition of the Transformational Leader. People are not willing to recognize someone as their leader unless they trust them, not just intellectually, but ethically and morally, as well. Likewise, people won’t follow someone unless they’re convinced that person knows where they’re going. Conversely, those who lead must adapt their style of leadership to the situation and the people who are being led. Being an effective leader is a constant test in adaptability.

When a business is your livelihood and something that you, yourself, built from the ground up, it’s understandable that you may have a fear of letting go, and leading by example may sometimes be a mask of that fear. A true leader doesn’t just inspire trust, he or she returns the favor, trusting those who follow. To lead effectively, you must overcome your fear of losing control and allow others to step in. When an employee sees the boss has confidence in him, he becomes more willing to accept responsibility, therefore making a greater contribution to the organization.

Nine times out of ten, when asked to define their leadership style, business owners often reply, “I lead by example.” Leading by example is terrific, but it’s not the be all, end all. Employees aren’t dumb. They can recognize the real work from the tedium that is simply busy work. One amazing bit of leadership advice is, “don’t do well what you shouldn’t do at all.”

By the same token, true leaders understand that their business requires more than one leader; someone other than themselves. They know that, ideally, every employee within an organization should take the lead in certain situations. And true leaders know that they assume all responsibility for training and guiding their followers into leadership roles.

One of the toughest tests of leadership is the ability to make personnel changes. Rather than do so, too many entrepreneurs will accept mediocre performance. True leaders are willing to make sure they have the “right people on the bus,” even if it means ushering some people off. If you are willing to tolerate mediocrity, what does that say about your leadership style? Regardless of what your leadership style is, though, you can make it work, provided you employ people who are comfortable with it and can adapt to it. And, of course, who trust you.

Almost all successful leaders share some universal qualities, including the ability to inspire trust, the vision to move a business forward, and the foresight to provide the training employees will need to realize that vision. Real leadership is not necessarily about doing and leading by example, but it is about creating a process where your employees feel confident and strive to consistently achieve better-than-average results.

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